It is with little surprise, but nonetheless great pleasure, that I observe the informal declaration by Sen. Marco Rubio of his candidacy for the office of President of The United States. I refer to today’s supposedly impending announcement of a bi-partisan proposal, by four Democrat U.S. senators and four Republican senators, for immigration reform. As described in the pre-announcement announcement, the proposal would contain one key compromise by the Republicans while also achieving many of the objectives that Republican commentators have suggested. Given the number of ways in which the proposal will offend the more-extreme elements of each of the two political parties, it might never become law, but that may be irrelevant in terms of presidential politics.
The critical compromise, which is articulated in such cryptic terms that it is hard to assess fully at this time, is that it involves a “path to citizenship” that will be viewed – perhaps accurately – by many Republicans as a form of the word one dare not utter: amnesty. (There, I uttered it.) Quick summary: the proposal would be contingent upon our achieving some unspecified level of enhancement in border security; it would not grant immediate citizenship to illegal aliens, but would require them to register and touch all the procedural bases (and would thus weed out those with criminal or other inappropriate behavior in their records); and it would also “put them at the back of the line” of applicants for citizenship. BUT – and this is the big one – it appears that it would only put them at the back of the current year’s line, meaning they would be in line ahead of all of the people applying for citizenship next year or thereafter under the limitations of the present quota system on immigration, and thus they would be the beneficiaries of a massive, one-time exception to our immigration quota-system.
So, is this just another conservative sell-out, where our leaders have again been outfoxed by those wily, rascally, cynical, street-smart/Alinsky-trained Democrats? Is this a re-run of the original Reagan amnesty? Well, not so fast; maybe not. Yes, it means we may have almost-instantly created eleven million more presidential votes for the Democrats, and we may have gotten little in return. Yes, it also means the President might get credit for engineering a masterful compromise that makes him look bi-partisan but cements his popularity with the little people. Yes, it might even destroy the potential candidacy of the one national politician the Democrats have good reason to fear – Sen. Rubio – because it might cost him the support of a lot of conservatives. But, what if Rubio manages to stay in front on this issue and exploits it in order to pull off a twofer: (i) bringing together the moderate and extreme elements of the Republican Party; and (ii) building enough support in the Latino communities to enable the Republicans, both in the critical 2014 elections and in 2016, to split the Latino vote and thereby restore the Republicans’ electoral majority?
I have remarked in an earlier post (http://www.mecmoss.com/last-chance-for-republicans-to-play-dirty-and-win/) that the Republicans’ last best hope of averting bad news in 2014 and a national calamity in 2016 is for Rubio not only to be the party’s presidential nominee in 2016, but to have become its de facto national leader soon enough for him to be able to swing enough of the Latino vote to the Republicans in 2014 so that they can at least maintain control of the House. (If the Democrats control Congress as well as the White House after 2014, the American Experiment is over.) I have also noted that, despite the legitimate argument that the Latino population, by virtue of the values and morals of the various versions of the Latino culture, should be naturally more at home with the Republicans than with the Democrats, the critical political issue of the day for the Latino vote is immigration policy – beyond any shadow of a doubt. This issue is of far greater significance than the supposed religiosity, social conservatism, and entrepreneurial spirit of so many Latinos. Remember, Obama won even without those eleven million votes!
The proposed Rubio Plan (I call it that, because no other Republican could pull off such a consensus on such a proposal) is a political masterstroke: Rubio Does Amnesty is the domestic-policy equivalent of Nixon Does China.
I am ready for the deluge: if the proposal shows any sign of political viability, it will instantly become the “Obama Bi-partisan Immigration-Reform Plan,” Rubio will be depicted as a spineless compromiser and panderer, etc., etc. I say, bring it on. Let Rubio show he has what it takes, both to establish ownership of the Plan and to establish leadership of the Republican Party.